Executive Functioning Deficits Reported in Binge Eating Disorder With Depressive Symptoms

Patients with binge eating disorder and depressive symptoms reported executive functioning deficits, even though neuropsychological tests showed no significant differences in executive functioning between them and healthy controls.

Self-reported impaired daily functioning in patients with binge eating disorder (BED) was correlated with the severity of depressive symptoms, according to study data published in Psychiatry Research.

The study cohort comprised 91 patients with BED and 56 healthy controls. Among patients with BED, 25 had no-to-mild depressive symptoms and 66 had moderate-to-severe depressive symptoms as measured by the Beck Depression Inventory. All participants were matched for gender, age, and education level. Patients with BED were recruited from an eating disorder center in The Netherlands between October 2012 and February 2016. Healthy controls were non-obese (Body Mass Index <30) individuals without depression recruited by advertisement between April 2013 and December 2016. Executive functioning was assessed using a variety of 6 neuropsychological tests and questionnaires, including the Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire and the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function-Adult version.

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No between-group differences were observed for the neuropsychological tests measuring decision making, response inhibition, set-shifting, working memory, or central coherence. In fact, test scores for most patients with BED fell within the healthy range (67%-90%) and did not differ significantly from those of healthy controls. However, with respect to functioning in day-to-day life as measured by self-report questionnaire, the BED group with moderate-to-severe depressive symptoms indicated the weakest executive functioning abilities. Comparatively, patients with no-to-mild depressive symptoms had intermediate functioning and healthy controls had the strongest abilities. These results persisted after adjustments for medication use and psychiatric comorbidity.

These data suggest that a self-report questionnaire may be more useful than neuropsychological tests to evaluate executive functioning in patients with BED. In addition, this study underscores the substantial impact of depressive symptoms on executive functioning in patients with BED.  

Researchers noted that men, younger individuals, and obese patients were underrepresented in this study.


Dingemans AE, Vanhaelen CB, Aardoom JJ, van Furth EF. The influence of depressive symptoms on executive functioning in binge eating disorder: a comparison of patients and non-obese healthy controls. Psychiatry Res. 2019;274:138-145.